Answers some of the most commonly asked questions about the Nucleation Capital venture fund.
Nucleation Capital is a venture capital fund that invests primarily in exceptional early and mid-stage private ventures developing technologies in the areas of advanced nuclear and deep decarbonization. Unlike most other climatetech funds, we are focused on technologies that punch well above their weight in effectively reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We believe next-gen nuclear is the “black swan” that will enable humanity to live energy-rich lives while preventing climate change and protecting the environment.
Nucleation Capital can accept investments from accredited and qualified Investors, family offices, foundations and institutions. What distinguishes our fund, however, is that a typical accredited investor can afford our low fund minimum.
Nucleation invests in early to mid-stage private ventures operating in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. (or in other allied regions when English is used as the primary language), which are developing technological innovations in the areas of clean energy generation and carbon management. We are focused on ventures working to leverage and advance the power of atomic energy (i.e. fission, fusion, low energy, RTG, subcritical, etc.) whether as primary reactor developers or supply and support ventures, including advanced materials, fuels, parts, waste management, remediation processes, etc. For carbon management, we invest in ventures that capture and utilize carbon emissions at scale (CCUS), such as to produce synthetic hydrocarbons. We will also invest in grid optimization, energy transmission innovation, and related areas.
There are sufficient other investors focused on renewables. We seek to utilize our expertise to select the best advanced nuclear ventures, with the greatest potential to achieve commercial viability. We believe there are energy uses where only advanced nuclear will be competitive with today’s fossil fuel solutions, such as in industrial process heat, marine propulsion, remote grids and other “hard-to-decarbonize” areas. As carbon capture activity grows, only advanced nuclear will provide the 24×7 continuous carbon-free power required for climate remediation purposes.
We are well aware of the long time-frames and are investing with a particular eye on selecting ventures with strong revenue prospects despite that. Some have multiple revenue sources. Some have strategic plans to accelerate revenue. Others can service and support alternative markets while the market of advanced nuclear grows. Our first investment, Core Power, expects to earn significant consulting revenue helping its future marine transport customers prepare to convert from diesel to advanced nuclear, prior to them actually implementing the change. Deep Isolation will enable existing nuclear power plants to store their waste in temporary deep geologic boreholes to allow retrieval, before they convert those to permanent stores. Focused Energy is designing very advanced lasers for use in generating fusion energy but, before they build their first fusion plant, they expect to realize revenue from the use of their lasers for non-destructive testing.
Also recognize that most venture funds invest in early stage ventures that are pre-revenue. These ventures can raise new equity at much higher valuations and/or be acquired or go public via an IPO or SPAC merger based upon their technological achievements, whether pre-revenue or pre-profitability. NuScale is now a public company and achieved liquidity for its investors prior to building their first VOYGR plant. X-energy is also pre-revenue but has just announced plans to merge with the Ares Acquisition Company, a SPAC, with a potential $2 billion post-merger value. Thus, there are many viable pathways for early-stage investments to succeed, particularly when they hold the promise of realizing large future revenue streams.
Yes, Nucleation Capital is an “evergreen” rolling fund and accepts new investor subscriptions each quarter.
Investors apply to subscribe to Nucleation Capital through our online fund portal at AngelList Ventures, which provides access to all our fund descriptive information and legal docs. There are step-by-step instructions for subscribing, setting up an account and getting accredited. The whole process can take as little as 15 minutes.
Yes, especially in the last few years, a growing number of traditional venture capital and private-equity funds have begun making investments into nuclear ventures, fission and/or fusion. The following are some the better-known firms which have included nuclear in their portfolios:
- Tiger Global Management
- DFJ Growth
- Emerson Collective
- Footprint Coalition (Robert Downey, Jr.)
- Union Square Ventures
- JIMCO Technology Fund
- Prime Movers Lab
- JS Capital
- TIME Ventures (Marc Benioff)
- Breakthrough Energy Ventures
- The Engine
- Equinor Ventures
- Fine Structure Ventures
- Khosla Ventures
- Lowercarbon Capital (Chris Sacca)
- Moore Strategic Ventures
- Starlight Ventures
Absolutely. An “impact” investment is one made with the intention of generating a positive measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Our investment focus directly addresses solutions to 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with a primary focus on affordable and clean energy (#7), sustainable cities and communities (#11), and climate action (#13). Helping to decrease demand for fossil fuels, further helps provide clean air which produces good health and well-being (#3), reduces the need to sacrifice our open spaces, improving life on land (#15), creates jobs with decent work and economic growth (#8), healthier life below water through reduced acidification of the oceans (#14) and, via education and outreach, greater partnerships for the goals (#17) of ending emissions while providing abundant energy and restoring the health of our climate.
Nucleation Capital is a majority woman-led climate fund, with a focus on addressing the “E” component of “ESG,” namely by investing in clean energy and emissions reduction. As such, we are tackling some of the most critical and urgent aspects of any ESG mandate: the climate crisis. We recognize that for next-generation nuclear to be broadly embraced by the communities it serves, companies will need to operate at the highest levels of customer accountability, social equity, environmental justice and community transparency.
No, we are targeting standard venture capital returns or better. The existential risk posed by carbon emissions will put increasing pressure on humanity to transition to clean energy. While the enormous benefits of nuclear innovation are yet to be widely recognized, we believe their ability to meet the need in the market will more than compensate for the extraordinary risks posed by investing in them at this early stage in the development of the market.
Traditional venture capital funds are typically 506(b) funds which cannot raise funds from the public. This works for them because they mostly only accept institutional investors. We have elected to be a 506(c) fund and can raise funds from the public because we require all investors to be accredited before they can invest. This is to allow more investors access to this exciting asset class.
While we may not be able to disclose our planned investments prior to closing them, we will be reporting on our investment activities to our subscribers after they close, typically after the end of the quarter. Our quarterly updates will provide non-confidential information about the investments we have made. While we cannot violate any confidentiality provisions that we have agreed to with our portfolio investments, we will report as much as possible on our investment activity and the performance updates of the companies within our portfolio.
Nucleation Capital charges the standard venture capital fee of “2% and 20%” for subscriptions of 7 quarters or less. This is shorthand for a 2% annual management fee charged for managing the fund for up to ten years and an incentive fee of 20% carry. “Carry” is short for “carried Interest,” the right of the General Partner (us) to share in the upside profits earned by the Limited Partner (you) on your investment, but only after the full return of your subscribed capital. Once all your paid-in capital is returned, then all additional proceeds returned from investments are split 80/20, with 80% of that profit going to you and 20% paid to us as our carried interest.
Commencing with Q3-22, we have introduced a 25% fee discount, to 1.5% and 15% carry, for those who subscribe for eight quarters or more. We have chosen to do this to encourage our investors to allow us to build them more robust portfolios, since we are on a pace of making about one investment per quarter. Nuclear deals take longer.
Ten years is the standard term for a venture capital fund because it typically takes many years for a young venture to build up its operations and revenues and substantially increase its value. When there is a liquidity event (an IPO, merger or acquisition, etc.) we will distribute those proceeds back to investors as soon as feasible. Any loss will also be “distributed” via K1 tax forms as soon as feasible. The disposition of invested assets which have not had a liquidity event or gone bust at the ten-year point will be determined by the GP in consultation with the investors. The fund term can be extended by a year or two or the holding can be traded on a secondaries market.
No. With the rolling fund structure, subscribers only pay the amount of their subscription, so there are no further capital calls for fees or fund expenses, as typically charged to LPs by traditional venture capital funds. This means that the LP’s only requirement is to fund their quarterly subscription amount.
Limited partners do not have the right to participate in making any management decisions about the fund but also none of the responsibility. This preserves both the LP’s limited liability as a partner coupled with the right to receive highly favorable partnership tax status for their invested capital. This is why that structure is favored by professional LPs and GPs, whether investing via a traditional fund or a rolling fund.
We understand that there are events that may force you to have to end your subscription early. If so, please contact us and we will put you in touch with an AngelList rep and they will help you with that cancellation. If you are unsure of how long you’ll be able to participate, you can select a quarter-by-quarter subscription, which has the virtue of automatically rolling over each quarter unless cancelled, where non-payment of the next quarterly amount constitutes cancellation.
About Rolling Funds
Rolling Funds utilize a master series LLC legal structure on top of a technology-enabled platform. Investors participate through a level quarterly subscription in an amount and for a term they select, rather than periodic capital calls. Unlike investing in a traditional venture fund, a Rolling Fund provides:
- An online account portal to access fund information and reporting.
- Online, quarterly payments through ACH or online bank wires, simplifying funding. No unpredicable capital calls.
- Investors own a pro-rata share of any investment made for the subscribed quarters. There is no participation in deals completed during quarters prior to or subsequent to the investor’s subscription.
- Substantially lower minimums, starting at $20,000 ($5,000 per quarter for 4 quarters). Most traditional VC funds have multi-million dollar minimums.
- Neither fund formation nor general fund operation fees are charged to investors. Nucleation even pays the AngelList service fee.
- No extra capital calls of any kind. AngelList manages the process of allocating management fees from paid-in capital.
- An “evergreen” structure allowing the fund to continuously invest and raise capital over time, without needing to close the fund.
- Standard fee structure and closings, which virtually eliminate the need for legal support.
- Online accreditation for investors allows the fund to share fund information publicly, qualifying for the 506(c) exemption to fund registration.
- An offline, document signing process is available for those investors who prefer a more standard closing process.
Subscribing is typically done directly through the AngelList platform. The investor clicks the fund portal link and can access all of the terms and legal documents to review. Once they decide to invest, they can select their subscription level and term. AngelList will then guide them through a set of screens to set up their account, submit accreditation information and agree to the subscription terms. The fund manager is notified and reviews the subscription application. Once approved, the investor is notified and can proceed with funding their account. The whole process can take as little as 10 or 15 minutes.
Those who are new to AngelList need to provide evidence of accreditation, which could be a bank statement, tax return or contact information for their investment manager. AngelList’s fraud prevention process called “Know Your Customer” (KYC). may require investors to provide identification information (Legal Name, Address, Social Security Number).
There is no cost to set up an account on the AngelList platform or to be accredited. Those who choose to go ahead and participate in the Nucleation Capital rolling fund will pay fees to Nucleation Capital. Our management fee includes the .15% annual fee charged by AngelList for our use of the AngelList platform.
Yes, they can. There is tremendous flexibility built into this plattform, allowing investors to select the number of quarters and the amount they want to invest. LPs may cancel, increase or decrease their subscription at any time. Investor subscriptions are automatically renewing, unless cancelled.
Nucleation’s investors need to be a current subscriber to get exposure to the deal(s) in a particular quarter. They do not get a pro-rata share of any deal funded in prior or subsequent quarters.
Venture funds, including Nucleation, are classified as partnerships for US federal income tax purposes. Investors are Limited Partners (LPs), and treated as a partner of the fund. Partnerships are not subject to US federal income tax at the entity level. Rather, each partner is required to take their share of any taxable event, whether income gain, loss or deduction in the taxable year of the partnership. A partner must report on these distributed gains or losses on their tax returns, even if the partnership has not distributed cash or property directly to the partner. In certain instances where an investment has realized a taxable gain in value but has not made a distribution of proceeds, partners may be liable for federal or state income taxes on that income, even though they have received no distributions from the fund. Although this is a sought-after result, each partner should have alternative sources of capital from which to pay their income tax liability. AngelList will issue K1’s to each LP, which are the reportable taxes from those investments experiencing a profit or loss.
You will receive annual tax documents for any investments that have a taxable event within a given tax year. Tax returns and K1’s are only required to be filed with the IRS if there is taxable income or loss to report. If none of the investments that were made during the period you subscribed generated taxable income or loss, no K1 will be required.
Nearly all venture funds operate with a ten year term. The reason for the long term is that the capital that is invested is put to work in private ventures that are illiquid investments. Returns for all investments are generated when there is a “liquidity event,” such as an acquisition, an IPO, a merger or an agreement to merge with a SPAC. It can take many years for even the most succesful private ventures to achieve “liquidity.” Of course, not all investments take that long to mature, so there is the prospect of getting funds distributed to investors much earlier. Nevertheless, investors in venture funds need to be able to go without the use of their capital for as much as a decade.
AngelList charges an annual fee of fifteen basis points (0.15%) for our use of their platform. Unlike most other funds, Nucleation Capital pays that fee out of our fund management fee. This results in a net management fee to us of 1.85% (rather than 2.00%) or 1.35% (rather than 1.5%, in the event of longer subscriptions).
An investment syndicate is a group of investors who come together to pool capital to invest in a particular venture. The syndicate uses a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that is formed by the syndicate sponsor (Nucleation), which is created specifically to hold the pooled equity shares. This makes it feasible to allow investors who wish to invest in smaller amounts, into an equity deal. The SPV simplifies the process of closing a larger number of smaller investors in a private equity deal and keeps costs down for each individual investor. Learn more about the Nucleation Syndicate here.
Nucleation Capital works to build a diversified set of holdings for rolling fund subscribers, who automatically get an allocation in each deal we do. Nucleation Capital finds the deals, performs due diligence and makes the investment decisions on behalf of the fund LPs. Some but not all of these deals will be syndicated. Members of the Nucleation syndicate can invest in syndicated offerings but cannot invest in any deal for which there was no syndicated allocation. They review the information provided by the syndication offering and make their own investment decisions.
Syndicate members do not commit capital in advance. They review the information and decide if they wish to participate on a deal by deal basis. They make their own investment decisions about which opportunities they are interested in and how much to invest each time. There is no management fee paid by syndicate LPs but they do agree to pay carried interest on future returns in order to participate. Nucleation subscribers are entitled to participate in syndicates and pay reduced carry.
Nucleation Capital is focused on investing rolling fund capital in the best deals available. We will invest directly into the equity of a venture unless we agree with the founders to syndicate an additional allocations of equity to our broader network of investors. Depending upon the timing, Nucleation Capital may elect to fund through our own syndicate, so both the venture and our LPs see one line item.
No. Both rolling fund subscribers and syndicate participants remain confidential and are not disclosed by Nucleation Capital. Cap tables in both cases only list Nucleation Capital. AngelList lists members of a syndicate who have participated in at least one investment on our syndicate page within the private AngelList community. Some investors may also choose to list their participation in the rolling fund or their syndicates as part of their AngelList bios.
Syndications have been around a long time but technology has only recently made it really affordable. This means that it’s not just the top 10% of high net worth individuals who can afford to invest in these kinds of deals. Syndicated deals are quite well known to those who work in banking, finance, venture capital, hedge funds, or who have been entreprenurs fairly recently. For those who have worked in more traditional industries, government service or lab research, private equity and venture investing is less well-known. Nucleation Capital is seeking to build a network that broadens access to the remaining 90% of qualified investors.
Yes, you may participate as a foreign investor (excluding those coming from Russia, China, or Korea) however, you need to be able to meet the US SEC accreditation requirements through the submission of evidence of income or assets, whether you are a US citizen or a foreign national.
You can expect to see one syndicated deal per quarter initially. This deal flow is likely to grow over time.
About Nuclear Energy
In some sense, all of our energy comes from the Big Bang, which created stars and planets. Mankind has been fortunate that we’ve been gifted with special minerals with the ability to fission. A single fission event has been found to produce 200,000,000 electron volts of energy carbon free versus 2 electron volts produced by the burning of a single hydrocarbon molecule, that merely breaks a chemical bond and results in the release of a molecule of CO2. We hope this graphic helps explain the origins of energy (click to enlarge).
There are many expert professional groups and organizations that have devoted enormous resources to helping the public understand nuclear accurately. We shall list some of the best resources that we have found below:
- The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is responsible for managing nuclear energy in the U.S. and overseeing nuclear research conducted in the national labs as well as providing DOE grants through a range of programs. The department’s website represents the scope of their work and numerous initiatives and is designed for use by professionals more than the general public. There are, however, a number of consumer-oriented infographics, such as Five Fast Facts about Nuclear Energy, which are accessible through their Information Resources area. The Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, has been doing a lot of videos discussing nuclear energy. We highly recommend that people search for Secretary Granholm’s Youtube videos and follow her on Twitter, to get up-to-date info on what the DOE is doing regarding nuclear energy.
- The Idaho National Lab is at the forefront of work being done to bring nuclear energy in to the 21st century. The INL is leading the nation’s research in advanced nuclear energy technology and work to develop technology and support American innovators working to design advanced reactors that can replace fossil fuels with carbon-free energy and materials that lower carbon emissions for every energy source. They have their own Nuclear Energy FAQ page, which has great information for those seeking reliable answers to key questions about nuclear safety, reliability, operation and more.
- General Electric (GE) has been “at the forefront of innovation in nuclear power generation since the mid-1950s,” and they have experienced both the ups and the downs of the industry. They are a leading public company that is currently working on Advanced Nuclear and they have produced a very informative, nine-page position paper entitled “Nuclear Energy: A critical pillar of a carbon-free future,” which touts their views on the role that nuclear should play in the transition to a carbon-free future.
- The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an organization funded predominantly by large U.S. utilities, provides a range of resources on its website that enable you to look at nuclear fact sheets, nuclear statistics, performance data, such as the amount of nuclear generation in each state, and much more. (Note: because virtually all utilities also own fossil fuel and renewable energy assets, many nuclear advocates believe that NEI does not provide sufficient advocacy for nuclear power.)
- The International Energy Agency (IEA), headed up by Dr. Fatih Birol, monitors international energy activity and works to ensure energy security, tracks clean energy transitions, collects energy performance data and provides education and training around the world. They monitor and report on all types of fuels used internationally, including nuclear energy.
Nuclear power exploits atomic energy, which is roughly 100 million times more energy dense than fossil fuels. Nuclear fission, commercialized more than 60 years ago has had an amazing performance track record, which has proven its value for meeting our energy needs—yet has gone almost thirty years without a significant upgrade. Which is what is happening now: Gen IV nuclear is finally emerging, right as the world has recognized the existential threat posed by fossil fuels. These new designs combined with a range of supporting ventures for improved fuel, reprocessing and waste storage, promise to address all that ails traditional nuclear and transform nuclear into a powerhouse sector that will finally equip humanity with the energy tools we need to fully decarbonize. Many companies are racing to commercialize designs and bring them to market at the right price and with the right features to meet widespread energy needs. Utilities and other energy buyers are already committed to carbon reductions, the just don’t have the right commercial products to achieve their goals. Thus, if these nuclear ventures succeed, there will be rapid adoption and many huge commercial successes, as nuclear plants and reactors replace coal and gas boilers around the world. Investors in advanced nuclear today have the best chance of obtaining early stakes in a sector that will likely be larger than the fossil fuel industry by the end of this decade.
Nuclear outperforms fossil fuels on every metric that matters to humanity—other than in profitability—but that is already changing. Advanced designs will improve on nuclear’s stellar historical performance with: low carbon/zero emissions, firm reliable energy, zero toxic air pollutants, low/small ecologic footprint, weather resilience, strong fuel security, walk-away safe performance, quality job creation, scalable and manufactured designs that reduce construction risk and finance costs, flexible sizing and energy output options that can meet a broader array of energy needs, stable pricing and profitable operations. The best time to invest is when most everyone else is less informed and does not recognize the value proposition as well as you do.
“The looming twin challenges of climate change and energy production are too big to be tackled by known solutions and time-honored traditions. Incremental remedies are fine for incremental problems, but they are insufficient for monumental, potentially life-altering threats, which need to be approached with a disruptive mindset. There are 5 billion people coveting the energy-rich lifestyles currently enjoyed by 500 million people, mostly in the developed world. Incremental technology progress will not satisfy this craving. We need non-linear jumps in technologies – technological Black Swans! We can invent these future technologies.”Here is another, more animated answer to the question of “Do we need nuclear?”
“Advanced nuclear” encompasses a very wide range of reactor designs that generate heat including fission, fusion, and low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Most advanced designs use materials and method other than water for cooling, and thus are not Light Water Reactors (LWRs), which is how “traditional” nuclear has worked. A few advanced designs involve smaller, modular LWRs, which are now called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).
The light water reactor was a particular design optimized for use in nuclear submarines—that requires water cooling and high pressure—and it became the de facto standard for power plants, in part due to the supply chain created when the Navy ordered production and the Atomic Energy Commission learned how to regulate them. In moving away from LWRs, advanced nuclear plants won’t need to be built to near large bodies of water to support water cooling systems. Advanced nuclear designs typically use other materials to cool the reactor, often through natural physics, that are designed to work even with a complete loss of power.
Rather than standardize around one design and size, many people expect that there will be a number of commercial designs that energy buyers will be able to select from. Thus, other benefits to the growth of advanced nuclear include:
- More styles, sizes and types of technology to pick from to help decarbonize a broader range of energy needs.
- In addition to providing steam that produces electricity, some designs will produce high-temperature steam that can be used directly for industrial proceses heat. For many manufacturing plants, advanced nuclear’s steam may be the only way to do their work without burning coal or gas.
- Some advanced designs will utilize fast neutrons which will be able to generate energy from spent nuclear fuel—which is widely called “nuclear waste.” We pay good money to store these materials but only about 5% of the inherent energy has been used. Fast reactors can utilize and reduce stockpiles of this unused fuel material, reduce costs of maintaining it and reduce the need to extract new minerals for use as fuel.
- Modular designs are expected to be produced in factories and shipped as pre-manufactured component to the build site, so they will require the creation of more U.S. factories to do this production and so the industry is projected to create many good jobs as it grows.
- Assuming the U.S. gets its act together, exporting advanced reactors will require bi-lateral agreements that could help improve our exports and help us build more stable democracies in regions that seek to deploy advanced nuclear.
While nuclear innovation has been on the rebound for more than a decade, news from developers rarely gets covered by mainstream media, so you may have to subscribe to an industry newsletter (ANS Nuclear SmartBrief, World Nuclear News, NuclearNewswire, etc.) in order to stay abreast of what is going on. Fortunately, taboos against discussing nuclear are quickly diminishing with the result that now more news outlets than ever are covering the topic.
There’s a lot of work being done around the world to try to commercialize advanced nuclear designs. While there’s nothing stopping this development process, there is a lot that slows it down, such as: limited access to capital; limited number of test facilities; still nascent capabilities of nuclear regulators to understand the features of new designs; access to advanced fuel as a result of Russia’s assault on Ukraine; and reluctance of customers to order first-of-a-kind plants.
Advanced nuclear designs are now on track for demonstration units to be built mid-decade and sales commitments to begin being received, with commercial builds coming online in at the end of the decade or early 2030s. While it would be better if these designs were available now, by the end of this decade, demand will be even stronger, as the dire consequences of climate change will likely have impacted everyone. The urgency to end all fossil fuel extraction and use will be at its height and, while harsh consequences may already have been felt, people will still want to do whatever is possible to reverse the damage we’ve done.
Nuclear energy waste is functionally a non-issue, given that it is safely stored and impacts no one. In stark contrast, fossil fuels’ waste—toxic chemicals, particulants, radioactive coal ash and carbon emissions—have been shown to cause almost half of all air pollution deaths, an estimated 4 million premature deaths, plus are heating our climate. Climate change as a result of fossil fuel waste, is responsible for massive species die-off, ecologic changes such as ocean acidification and mounting global death and destruction from extreme weather events. That’s a really big waste issue. Those who wish to mask and hide the impacts of fossil fuel use try to make nuclear waste out to be bigger and worse than it is, something to be feared more than millions of deaths every year.
Nuclear waste is not an issue but its politicization is. While there may be political disagreements about how and where, there are no unsolved technological issues involved. We know how to store these metallic rods safely and have been doing it without any problem for more than sixty years. We also have newer waste storage options being introduced as well as new reactor designs that can extract energy from the waste and use it as fuel.
(In contrast, the radioactive waste improperly disposed of during the U.S. Government’s rush efforts to develop the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project, have caused problems to those in the surrounding communities. These sites need to be properly cleaned up and compensated but these are not related to the subsequent use of nuclear energy.)
Of course, but that is the same for any new technology. No one has ever said that the high cost of the first prototyped iPhone means that there won’t be a market for the product. All technologies see declining costs as production numbers increase. Advanced nuclear, because of its smaller sizes, will be able to travel down the cost curve much more quickly than the prior generation of power plants, each of which were distinctly different builds and were not designed for pre-fabrication or mass-production. Eventually, advanced nuclear power will be one of the lost-cost energy sources known to man but, in the interim, recent studies have shown that the existence of firm clean power on any grid, even if more expensive, will make the total cost of decarbonization of that grid cheaper.
We have about 10,000 years of nuclear fuel available from known uranium resources, including a considerable amount dissolved in sea water. Experts have estimated that there is as much as 1,000 years of energy locked up in the unused fuel that remains in existing spent fuel rods. Decommissioning all nuclear weapons can supply perhaps several hundred years worth of power. Then there is thorium, an common mineral resource, that can been found on every continent, which can augment uranium fuel supplies.
That remains unknown. Fusion researchers are clearly making progress. This has raised expectations and funding levels and leads many to believe that such efforts will lead to the successful production of “net energy” (more energy out than in) from fusion within the decade. Unfortunately, fusion has never once had net energy, despite some six or so decades of rigorous research efforts.
Achieving net energy will then start the clock on the next phases, working to design an operable system that can reliably produce usable electricity cost-effectively. Depending upon how “net energy” was achieved, this could be a very lengthy process. That will need to be followed by commercial testing and regulatory reviews. We can hope fusion designs become reality but whether that is by the end of this decade or within the next two or three decades no one knows.
LENR is a third type of nuclear energy which has eluded precise scientific definition. Once called “cold fusion,” unsupported early claims that left the science of cold fusion largely discredited. Now, three decades along, scientists have a much greater understanding of the phenomena that involves metal lattices and complex interactions where, through a special mix of reactants and metals, a sudden burst of energy is triggered. Variously called Low Energy Nucear Reactions (LENR), Solid State Nuclear or Lattice Confinement Fusion (LCF), there are more than 100 organizations including NASA and the DOE engaged in this research.
There are dozens if not hundreds of initiatives that endeavor to help people learn the truth about nuclear energy. Unfortunately, there are likely as many sites trying to spread inaccurate information to keep people feeling afraid of nuclear, when the reality of nuclear is that it is a life and environment-enhancing technology. Reliable sources include:
- The Department of Energy: Office of Nuclear Energy
- The Nuclear Energy Institute: Fundamentals
- The International Energy Agency: Nuclear
- The Nuclear Innovation Alliance
- Nuclear Matters
- Clean Air Task Force: Advanced Nuclear Energy
- ClearPath: Nuclear
- Third Way: Climate & Energy
- The Breakthrough Institute: Energy
- Good Energy Collective
- Energy Impact Center
- University of Michigan: Fastest Path to Zero
About Deep Decarbonization
Deep decarbonization is a term that covers and a whole range of existing an new approaches, methods and technologies for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmopshere and doing something else with the molecule or, specifically, the carbon part of that molecule. We have not yet successfully stopped emitting new amounts of CO2, so there is still an upward trajectory of the levels of CO2. Deep decarbonization contemplates using “negative emissions” technologies to capture, utilize or sequester CO2 after it has been released into the atmosphere and oceans, as another critical mechanism to try to prevent the worst climate impacts from happening.
Because of humanity’s habit of burning fossil fuels for energy—which releases carbon dioxide as its waste product—the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising faster than any other time in the past 66 million years. Today, and has reached levels not seen in at least the past 800,000 years, which is causing our atmosphere to heat up very quickly. While the challenge of making a wholesale shift away from burning the types of fossil fuels that release CO2 continues to elude us, there are things that we can do to try to mitigate the damage being done by removing increasing amounts of free CO2 so that it cannot function as a heating mechanism in the atmsophere.
This is from Climate.gov’s “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” page:
“Based on preliminary analysis, the global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2020 was 412.5 parts per million (ppm for short), setting a new record high amount despite the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the jump of 2.6 ppm over 2019 levels was the fifth-highest annual increase in NOAA’s 63-year record. Since 2000, the global atmospheric carbon dioxide amount has grown by 43.5 ppm, an increase of 12 percent.”
“CDR” stands for Carbon Dioxide Removal and contemplates one or more methods for capturing CO2 and rendering it harmless to our atmopshere. “DAC” is Direct Air Capture and involves capturing the CO2 from the air as one method for achieving CDR.
“Net Zero” is an approach to dealing with carbon emissions that recognizes that while we are working to shift to clean sources of energy, we will be continuing to emit CO2. So we need to use CDR methods to draw down the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as fast or faster than human activity is forcing it up.
Here is a chart listing the most common and most promising negative emissions technologies:
The following is a depiction of the various industrial and commercial uses for CO2 or C, converted from CO2:
2021 saw a lot of activity in the carbon capture and removal space. We shall list some of the resources that can give you a better sense of where things are:
- NORI Has published a 2021 Carbon Removal Recap podcast.
- Jason Hochman posted a Month-by-Month breakdown of the key CCUS news of the year via Twitter.
- Microsoft shared lessons learned and insights on purchasing carbon removal credits through the publication of a white paper.
- Mother Jones published an essay looking critically at the hype surrounding carbon removal by Clive Thompson entitled “Is Sucking Carbon out of the Airt the Solution to Our Climate Crisis? Or just another Big Oil boondoggle?“
- ClimateWorks published a report on how to decarbonize concrete, the world’s most used building material.